Needing cold hard facts and logistics for after mom dies.
July 27, 2011 1:00 PM Subscribe
What happens and what to do when I hear my mom dies 1,500+ miles away. What will the landlord do in the short term? Where does her body go? What happens to the cat? The medical bills? How do I unload fine art?
These are things people never think about, and I have only the slightest idea of how this will play out. I imagine someone will discover she has died, a coroner will be called, her body will be taken...somewhere...until I am notified. I'm in the boondocks; it could take me a few days to get there. I have questions. But first, some perhaps-relevant details:
-She may die soon, wants cremation, no service, no funeral;
-She may be at home, by herself, on her terms, expecting nobody;
-She has a will for which I am executor, and has told me where it is;
-There is no house, no car, just stuff, a cat, an IRA, a small bank account, some art and a couple of low-value lots in another state;
-There will be medical bills, likely lots of them;
-She has very few friends, a long-estranged faraway sibling and no spouse;
-We are not close, and talk superficially about 2x/mo;
-I've offered to handle things because a) she has nobody else, and b) it's the last best thing I can do for her;
-I have a sibling in the area, estranged from his mother, and he doesn't care to be involved in any way (other than to perhaps put me up, feed me and help me move things with his truck). He will be supportive of me, wants nothing and won't fight the will;
-I more or less know the town, and have friends there.
Her body: Do I have to involve a funeral director if there will be no funeral? (and is one engaged automatically without consent?). Assuming she's with the county coroner, can/will they cremate her before I arrive if I instruct them to do so? How much does the process cost, from death to the tin of ashes handed across the counter?
Her apartment w/cat: What does a corporate landlord (in a decent neighborhood) do when someone dies? Do they keep the unit secure for a period of time? Will they allow me access? Are there services to empty a place down to the last roll of toilet paper, especially if I want to donate the contents? And how about the cat? Will the landlords at least try to do right by the kitty and see if I can find a home for it? If so, who cares for the kitty until I get there?
Her bills: I guess there will be many outstanding medical bills, and more coming in the mail probably for several months. There is no money to pay them. Do I just mark all mail with "Addressee deceased: return to sender"? Can children be held financially culpable? What about credit card and other bills? Can I just return the mail and not introduce myself into the equation?
Her stuff: If the will is simple and straightforward and there are no complications, is there any reason to engage an attorney? If not, what do banks (savings+IRA) need from me? How do I transfer ownership of the lots in the other state? Does probate come into play? What is the best thing to do with stuff, specifically art (e.g., engage a broker of some kind? a gallery owner? an estate auction house? is there a really good method for donating art?).
If I need an attorney at any point, what kind does one get? And for the property...would I need one in both states?
I appreciate your input, your useful links, your experiences on this fact-gathering mission...